Open-heart plan hindered by blockage

Just when you thought Gwinnett Medical Center's $33 million open-heart program had cleared its last hurdle, another stretch of red tape is blocking the road.

Three competing hospitals disagree with the Georgia Department of Community Health's decision to green light GMC's plans. They don't want an open-heart surgery program at the main campus in Lawrenceville.

The motivation is clear: competition. These hospitals, with open-heart services of their own, don't want to share their patients, staff or revenue with another open-heart facility.

All the reasons that GMC's open-heart facility approval was granted still exist. The opponents already made their arguments in front of the decision-making body during the review process. No new information or research is being presented. Therefore, we hold hope that the approval granted last month is upheld.

Georgia's hospitals operate under a certificate of need system designed to prevent hospitals from adding a health-care specialty where adequate service already exists. This eliminates unnecessary and costly duplication of services among facilities.

But as GMC has accurately portrayed, other hospitals with open-heart services are not desirable destinations for the patients in Gwinnett. It's not an issue of quality, but one of geography. These facilities are, especially in emergency situations, too far away.

The GDCH, in its letter of approval, said it best:

"As Gwinnett County's traffic congestion continues to increase, the creation of an open heart surgery program at the center of the county significantly improves the ability of the residents of Gwinnett County to access timely care, thereby reducing heart damage and the likelihood of poor health outcomes."

In addition, GMC is the largest medical community in the nation not offering this particular need.

The right decision has already been made. For our health's sake, we hope they stick to it.